CELEBRITY ATHLETE FOUNDATIONS AND CHARITIES ABOUND, BUT REPORTS SHOW THAT MANY ARE JUST MISMANAGED GOOD INTENTS, TAX SHELTERS, PUBLICITY STUNTS, OR EVEN WORSE, JUST A GOOD EXCUSE TO GIVE FAMILY AND FRIENDS CONTRIBUTOR-FINANCED JOBS. THEN THERE ARE THOSE THAT ARE THE TOTAL OPPOSITE, SMALL WELL-MANAGED GEMS THAT WITH LITTLE FANFARE ARE DOING IMMENSE BEHIND-THE-SCENES WORK TO IMPROVE SOCIETY. ONE SUCH IS THE ASANTE SAMUEL FOUNDATION
By Nelson Agelvis
In the United States there are over 81,000 charitable foundations, of which a few hundred first saw the light of day thanks to the desire of a successful athlete to make a positive social change, mostly inspired on past personal experiences. However, that good intention has generally fallen short as financial results show that most of these athlete-sponsored foundations end up spending more of their donor dollars on administrative costs and fundraising than on any actual charity, up to 90% in many reviewed cases, far more than the 35% that nonprofit specialists say is a maximum to spend on running costs. Thanks to this disappointing precedent, when South Florida native and NFL cornerback Asante Samuel decided to start a foundation to help single mothers, as was his own mother, he put his University of Central Florida business major to work and from day one made the Asante Samuel Foundation a well-managed charitable organization.
What moved Asante Samuel was his firsthand knowledge of the tribulations that single mothers must go through to raise their children, and the realization that life had blessed him with the opportunity to do something about it. Here was a problem he knew well and in his hands was a solution. So like the vigorous defensive back that he is, he ran forward to tackle this social problem that affects 10.3 million mothers in the U.S. by creating a national organization providing housing, education, support, and networking to single mothers. In classic football lingo, he aptly named it the Bring it Home Single Moms Foundation, known today as the successful and highly professional Asante Samuel Foundation.
All experts agree that for a charity organization to be perdurable, it must be sustainable, and to be sustainable, it must be run like a serious business. With this in mind, Asante Samuel began the foundation by persuading a group of skilled professionals to join him in his altruistic venture. Once having assembled a premium volunteer management team with the likes of financial expert Sylvester King Jr., business manager Kirstie Bolitho, and marketing expert Randi Berger, he set out to form alliances that would boost the foundation’s chances for success even further. This is how the global expertise of consulting firm The Pacific Institute came into the game.
The Pacific Institute is a global consultancy with over 40 years of experience in delivering customized solutions, especially through education using cognitive science, that empower individuals to improve their performance and reach their full potential. With clients in over 60 countries and 22 languages, they have helped over half of the current Fortune 1000 companies, as well as governments, educational institutions, and other non-profit organizations, and now, they are advisors to the Asante Samuel Foundation.
In a golden strategy devised to score and win, the Asante Samuel Foundation, with the guidance of The Pacific Institute, developed a program—a customized curriculum—for single mothers to improve themselves, to understand how their minds work, to help them raise their self-efficacy and self esteem by setting and achieving life goals. The name of this program is STEPS for Empowering Single Mothers. The success rate of the program has been outstanding as the participants have shown in pre and post tests, which have also provided a benchmark so future groups can strive for an even higher level of success.
The mission of the Asante Samuel Foundation, with this program and all others, is to help single mothers gain stability by providing structure and safety to their lives, through effective social tools and resources, both mental and economic, so that single mothers can succeed without trauma in raising their children singlehandedly. Having a permanent home, though important, is not enough to guarantee successful childrearing. Single mothers must have empowerment through counseling and guidance to learn how to handle everyday issues such as home management, taxes, insurance, mortgages, education, nutrition, drug issues, violence, health and others. The foundation focuses on providing this life-improvement knowledge in hopes that it gets passed on to the children as they grow, thus breaking the cycle of life mismanagement.
Asante Samuel recognized, when interviewed on the subject, that in his childhood it was the instability that affected his family the most, when he said “Bouncing around house to house made me realize that if we would have had that place that we could call home, and not have to bounce around and move, life could have been that much easier for us.” This is why stability, especially emotional, is a priority for the foundation, and thanks to the programs being put into practice, stability can be achieved even if the goal of a permanent home is temporarily beyond reach.
Specifically, STEPS for Empowering Single Mothers is an 8-step program that emphasizes living a meaningful life by changing thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and expectations, by stepping outside of comfort zones, by setting goals, acting on them and attaining them. The program uses complex notions of cognitive science and social learning, but makes them easy to understand and use in everyday life, working on single mothers’ limiting beliefs about their own capacity. In this program, participants discover precisely how they think and how to shift that thinking. They develop better coping and goal-setting skills, and positive self talk. They are taught to be effective parents through structured activities, discussion groups and ongoing peer support. By positively changing their thoughts and beliefs, these women are positively changing their lives.
STEPS for Empowering Single Mothers is taught to a group, ideally of 20 mothers at a time, in a convenient location such as community centers, schools, and other facilities that can easily accommodate the groups of single mothers and on-site temporary childcare centers for their children. The participants meet weekly to go through the eight modules of the course together, building trust and support for one another, sharing their challenges and eventually…their successes.
Asante Samuel himself makes sure to visit the groups and supervise their progress. Being a good Floridian, he doesn’t let his celebrity status get in the way of his social mission, making him hands-on at the foundation. In his vision, he sees centers springing up in all the major cities, but for this to happen, the foundation must grow. At an estimated cost of $5000 per group, and being the only single mothers’ foundation of this type in the country, there are just so many groups that the foundation at its current size can support. This is why contributions are absolutely necessary. But seeing the success of the programs, donors feel pleased to see that their contributions go a long way in making our whole society better, because for every single mother that gets help, more children receive the opportunity to follow the right path in life and become great citizens, just like one such child named Asante luckily did.